The Rest of the Fairfax Cryptics

I’ve asked this question before, but there’s a whole bunch of other people around these traps these days, so I thought I’d ask again: how do you rate the other cryptic compilers in the SMH or The Age?

Maybe once every couple of months I’ll do an NS and a DP, mostly because I find NP a nice, quick romp and DP an amusing bit of fun (although I think DP’s crosswords have dropped in quality recently).

I know a DS is a better-quality crossword than an NS or DP, but I find the DS requires too much thinking without enough joy and I rarely get around to looking at it. DP has the jokes, NS the ease; DS has neither.

RM and EP on the Monday I almost never do — the clues always seem very messy.

DH I find an abomination — obscure words and simple wordplay that only serves to annoy.

22 thoughts on “The Rest of the Fairfax Cryptics

  1. NP is indeed “a nice, quick romp”.

    From time to time, DP can deliver a really pleasing crossword. Try:
    from the motherlode. Genuinely fun, neatly themed.

    While I certainly share your distaste for DH and his penchant for the wantonly recondite, I wouldn’t rate DS too far ahead … I wince at his strained wordplay far too often. (Yew trees must be 100″ tall around where he lives; there’s just no other explanation for the length of the bows he continually draws.)

  2. The only other crossword I do regularly from the Age is Sunday’s which is not “signed”. It generally has a lot of short puns which can be fun.

    I agree that NS is a nice easy puzzle. She always starts with the first clue being a longish anagram.

    My main source of cruciverbalist pain at the moment is The Times Crossword Collection (ISBN 0-00-721300-X if anyone wants to find it). I haven’t managed to complete any without help yet! I’ve tried about 15 of the 160 in the book so I am hopeful. Some beautifully constructed clues in it, eg/ Character with whom it’s rash to play poker, for a start (4-5) = CARD-SHARP

  3. I started my cryptic puzzling with DS and got into the rhythm of his/her (?) thinking after a while, but since moving on to DA I’ve had to learn more and change my whole crossword approach. DA’s crosswords are meatier and therefore more satisfying and fun. Now when I go back to DS I find myself looking for things that aren’t there (e.g. mixing up the letters of a synonym rather than the letters in front of me!). So now I get frustrated with DS and I am virtually a cruciverbal monogamist. (Anyway, who has time for more than one really decent crossword a week?!)

  4. I shouldn’t have time, but I make it. used to do all the Age/SMH crosswords, even had an online subscription to them for a year, but sort of outgrew them. NS too easy, EP too annoying, DH too fond of putting in really obscure words to fill in awkward corners. DS OK but a lot of work, as Jonathan says, for little payoff. DP is an excellent beginner’s puzzle, with good clue syntax and even the odd micro-theme, but after a while I found him too easy.

    Apart from DA, I do the Guardian crosswords, which are these days available online for nothing. They’ve had pseudonyms on their puzzles for decades, and this has allowed the setters to develop their own styles. Favourites are Araucaria (who we may not have for much longer, he’s pushing 90) and Paul. You could also check out the Financial Times and Independent crosswords.

  5. About 1970 my Mom started me on SMH cryptics when I was in high school. The clue that got me hooked was ‘US wigwam (4, 2, 3, 5)’. I did them off and on over the years, interspersed with The Times, until 7 years ago. At that time the challenge was to get them out during morning tea, but it got to a stage where I finished them too quickly and then had to put up with my colleagues talking about football. So in the past handful of years I’ve been concentrating on DA and the Guardian. My Mom (87 y.o.) still breezes through the other SMH crosswords, but usually ends up throwing DA on the floor and stomping on it and swearing before I phone her on Friday evening (‘when the sun is over the yard-arm’) and swapping notes with her.

  6. I was introduced to cryptics via some friends each Saturday morning about ten years ago now. I don’t know if DS was the Saturday cruciverbalist back then, and for a good five or six years I paid no attention to who wrote the cryptic. I just dipped into them willy-nilly, whenever I had the chance and I felt the need, really.

    It was only after RC and I discovered that we both did cryptics about four years ago — which was about five years after we’d first met — and he extolled the virtues of DA’s cryptics that I paid close attention to who wrote them.

    Before then, I did cryptics so irregularly that who wrote them was of no concern.

  7. I get pleasure from the DA all week, because it takes me that long. The Christmas DA was the second or third DA I’ve finished without assistance or collaboration, after more than ten years of trying.

    I avoid the Monday crossword because it contains the solution to the DA. This is easier than avoiding Saturday’s crossword, which I used to have to do before DA’s move to Saturday in The Age.

  8. @Ian: Araucaria’s 90th birthday was yesterday. The Grauniad cryptic was (sort of) a tribute to him, and the man himself has today’s puzzle.

  9. I really can’t differentiate the Sat-Thurs compilers except that Saturday sometimes tests just a little more. But it’s really daylight between DA and the rest.

    If it’s a choice (like I’m going onto a plane) I choose The Times crossword in The Australian every time, except on a Friday.

  10. So what happened to EP today (Monday 30/4/12). I like NS and EP but today EP is missing. Instead we get LR with silly linked clues. Bring back EP!

  11. DH crosswords have all the hallmarks of an incompetent setter who works him/herself into corners, and then uses some word completing internet application to find words that fit the unfortunate combinations that he/she is left with from time to time. I would guess the he/she has never struck most of these words before.
    DH crosswords are rubbish – unworthy of presentation in a national suite of newspapers.

  12. DH apparently still using the same method – digging himself into a corner and then employing various esoteric sources to unearth some weird word/words to compensate for this lack of forethought.
    About time he was retired to make way for someone who can devise challenges to our capacity for lateral thinking (and a reasonable vocabulary).

  13. DH still rubbish, given his effort in Fairfax Tuesday 7 Jan 2014. Same old lack of any planning in setting a satisfying challenge.

  14. Tidy,

    I have to ask why do you still do these crosswords? Have you complained to the paper? If people don’t complain, they are unlikely to do anything about it.

    (Also you shouldn’t assume that anyone for Fairfax reads this forum or that any of the Fairfax setters – apart from DA – do either)


  15. DH educates and expands one’s vocabulary through a logical way of solving the clue. People need to learn to get out of their comfort zone and be inclusive of different ways of problem solving.

  16. I counted 13 whole anagrams in today’s DH, many for obscure words. Most of those clues (and the rest) made no sense. There were 11 “?” and 5 “!” none with cryptic purpose except maybe to ask for forgiveness. While not difficult to solve, there’s no cleverness or disguise that makes me think. A joyless solve for me.

    Peter W

  17. Am with you Peter W. Don’t know why I attempted it, but it was early morning, looking for a distraction, and the Guardian cryptics don’t come up until 9am. The SMH cryptics, apart from DA, and LR, his protege on a rotation on a Monday, and DS on Saturdays. are woeful.

  18. I only try the SMH Saturday crossword, because it is the only paper I buy each week. This week’s was labelled DS #1345, and I managed to complete it, which is something I by no means always do.

    I really want the creator to know that I think the clue for 27 across is possibly the cleverest clue I have ever tackled!

  19. Agree John Gross. 27a was a goodie. I always enjoy DS. The setter is David Sutton. I’ve tried to look him up to congratulate him at times, but he seems to have an almost invisible digital footprint.

    This is a site which was set up for solvers of DA and I doubt DS would drop in here. I suppose you could try a letter to the Editor of the SMH.

  20. I actually had email contact with DS recently, not long after the article on DH appeared in The Age. I was interested in finding out some information about him. He seems very reclusive abd was not forthcoming at all. He confirmed that no article has ever been written profiling him and that he was not interested in one.
    BTW, does anyone have any information about RJ, whose puzzles appear on Sundays?

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